Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Snails

Well I did a little research (thanks Wikipedia) and discovered that most of us have the same pesky snail in common. It is known as Helix Aspera and originated in the Mediterranean area. They have since spread far and wide and become a pest to most gardeners. However some creative Capetonians have started harvesting them from our vineyards and exporting them to restaurants overseas. The really weird thing is apparently our local restaurants prefer a different type of snail and so we import it! What a crazy world we live in. Lately I have seen ads for face cream made from snails; apparently it’s great for wrinkles and scars. Maybe sticking them to our faces while we do our morning gardening chores will chase away  few wrinkles.The only other bit of useful information that I could glean is that this snail has an aversion to copper so putting copper bands around precious plants may offer some protection.
My garden doesn’t only suffer from the brown snail; I have another little monster that mostly confines itself to a small front bed containing pelargoniums and gazanias. I think I detest this one more then the big brown one as it is much smaller and more proliferous and consequently more difficult to collect. Again thanks to Wikipedia I think this culprit is Theba pisana, also originating from the Med and fast becoming a major problem in the USA.

Orpheum frutescens

Finally the Orpheum frutescens that I planted in the new front bed is flowering. I am really thrilled at how good it is looking. The glossy pink star like flowers with prominent yellow anthers make a lovely show when clustered near the tips of stems covered with bright green leaves. All the gardening books say it likes lots of water but mine is flowering despite the fact that it has been hot, dry and windy and I seldom water the front bed. By seldom I mean maybe once every six weeks.
The texture of the flowers is hard to describe – they have a waxy almost sticky feel to them, but they leave no sticky residue on your fingers. Something else amazing about his plant is the way it is pollinated. The anthers on this plant are intertwined and only unlock to a certain frequency of wing beat created by a particular bee. This is called buzz pollination.
This plant is great for difficult areas close to the sea as it tolerates poor sandy soils and doesn’t mind the salt–laden air.
The garden fundi’s also say it needs to be replaced every few years – time will tell!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snail Invasion

While our hot dry winds continue to blow almost daily, we had some welcome rain over the weekend. But along with the rain came snails - literally hundreds of them. I refuse to use poisons so the only way to get rid of the little horrors is to collect them by hand. In less than an hour I collected 5 coffee jars full! Now comes the crazy and cruel part - I drown them in boiling salt water and then leave the shells to dry in the sun for a few weeks. When the shells are totally dry I use them to cover the bare soil in my pot plants. Does anyone have a more humane way of controlling these destructive creatures?

Lobostemon fruticosus

This bush is also known as Agtdaegeneesbos (8 Day Healing bush). The early Cape inhabitants believed this plant would cure a multitude of ills within 8 days, hence the name. I have nicknamed it the Cinderella bush. Why? Well I planted this rather boring looking shrub in the new front bed in April. Its grey green leaves covered in soft hairs made it almost unnoticeable amongst the other plants. But in late August it suddenly burst into flower. I couldn't believe it was the same unremarkable plant. It was covered in the most beautiful light pink buds and when open the flowers are pale blue on the margins and pink at the bottom. It just made me think of Cinderella dressed up for the ball. It continued to flower until almost the end of September and then all the flowers faded and disappeared and it returned to it's dull existence. I thought I would have to wait until Spring to see it bloom again, but this little bush had a surprise in store for me - mid November and it is flowering again!
It grows up to 1 metre high and equally wide and is multi-stemmed. It self seeds freely in its natural habitat, but can also be cultivated from cuttings taken in Spring and Autumn. It occurs on the West Coast from Namaqualand to the Peninsula

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Summer is here!

Summer is definitely here. The South easter has been blowing for 3 days and yesterday the the temperature reached 30 degrees celsius. Time to bring out the hats and sunblock. It is weather like this that really makes one appreciate our indigenous flora, most alien plants would be wilted and crying out to be watered but our local plants seem to almost relish this weather. This weeks feature plant is a perfect example - it looks so delicate you wouldn't think it could handle our harsh summer, but as the wind blows it reveals the silver under sides of the leaves creating waves of green and silver.

Geranium incanum
Carpet geranium

DESCRIPTION: This geranium has finely divided mid green leaves with grey undersides. Deep purple or occasionally very pale mauve to white flowers cover this plant almost all year round. In my garden the paler flowers are also somewhat smaller than the flowers on the deeper purple form. The carpet geranium makes an ideal ground cover; fast growing it makes a dense carpet about 300mm high. Bees seem to love this plant and there are always a few buzzing busily around.
DISTRIBUTION: Geranium incanum is common in the south western and eastern parts of the country.
CULTIVATION: Like all geraniums this one grows easily from cuttings and seed. It flowers better in full sun but will tolerate semi-shade. The carpet geranium is perfect for sloping banks and is equally happy in hanging baskets.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

My garden in October

I love this time of the year. The Southeaster has not yet won the battle with the Northwester and so it doesn't blow everyday. The days are warmer but there are still the occasional rainy days. Best of all are the amount of flowers blooming.
The front bed that we started in April is really rewarding.
The Geranium incanum has spread like wildfire. The Halleria lucida has more than doubled in size and the Scabiosa africana are giving a constant supply of cut flowers. The only dissapointment is that the Aristea major that I ordered and planted have turned out to be Dutch irises - yuck! Don't misunderstand me Dutch irises are beautiful as are roses - just not in the Western Cape.
                                              LOOK AT ME NOW SEPTEMBER 2010

I hope to feature at least one plant a week. This weeks choice is:
Scabiosa africana

DESCRIPTION: Large green oval leaves with jagged edges grow low to the ground. From this base tall flower stalks shoot up to almost 1 metre high. These stems carry beautiful deep mauve, pale purple or even white flower heads up to 50mm across.
DISTRIBUTION: The pincushion occurs naturally in the Western Cape.
CULTIVATION: Scabiosa Africana does equally well in full sun or semi-shade. It appreciates well composted soil and will grow from seed or cuttings. It self seeds naturally in the garden giving you a constant supply of cut flowers.

Please Note: I regularly consult the following 4 sources for plant information:
Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants, Pitta Joffe (First Edition Fourth Empression 2007)
This book is invaluable to any indigenous fanatic.
Field Guide to Wild Flowers, John Manning (2009)
This book is great if you are wanting to find exact localities of plants. Lots of other botanical info also
Grow Fynbos Plants, Neville Brown and Graham Duncan (2006)
Another must have for any Cape gardener.
This site is amazing - I would be lost without it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Hate Roses

I agree roses look stunning and some of them smell gorgeous, but everytime I open a gardening magazine and I see someone"s prize rose garden featured, I have the horrors.
Just think of all the chemical fertilizers and probably every pesticide and fungicide known to man going into the soil and air.
What about all the water used to make roses look their best? Water is scarce in most parts of South Africa. Dont these rose gardeners know that all their fertilizers and pesticides upset the balance of nature and probably kill half the insects, frogs and birds?
I live in the Western Cape and am slowly turning an old established garden full of alien plants into a new indigenous garden. I am trying to choose only plants from the Cape and not South Africa in general. It makes sense that a plant that comes from Kwa Zulu Natal will probably not be very happy with the Cape's hot dry summers. Although my garden is still a work in progress, I am already reaping the rewards of a chemical free, water wise environment.
I would love to hear from other Cape gardeners that love our indigenous flora. What have you planted? Where do you buy your indigenous plants? What eco friendly pest control measures do you use?